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Gilmanton Clerk operating out of Safety Building

GILMANTON – A burst sprinkler pipe in the attic of the historic Gilmanton Academy has left the building which houses the town offices unusable for a number of months.

Water pouring from the broken 1-inch pipe cascaded down through the lower three floors Sunday at 10 p.m. damaging nearly everything it touched, including most of the computers used by town employees.

"Our router and our mainframe are already at the repair shop," said Selectman Don Guarino who added he understands that the town records are backed up and stored in a safe that was undamaged. He also said the town's archives are in a vault that was undamaged.

Fire Chief Joe Hempel said what the department thought was a fire alarm in the attic sounded at 10:04 p.m. and the response time was very quick.

"I just couldn't believe it," Hempel said. "There was two inches of water on the bottom floor."

Hempel said firefighters shut off the water and began covering computers, desks and other items with tarps. They moved desks and other items to help clean up the water.

"This is a significant impact to the town this year," Guarino said, noting the water had gone through every light fixture and a portion of the ceiling in the auditorium fell to the floor. He said the drywall, the ceiling in the auditorium, insulation and all of the electrical fixtures will need to be repaired.

The system is a dry system, said Guarino, meaning there is a heat-sensitive glass bulb or link that when triggered by heat or fire allows the compressed air in the system to be replaced with water. Although more expensive to install and maintain, dry sprinkler systems are more common in areas where temperatures go below freezing. Guarino said the attic is not heated.

Guarino said he thinks some water got into one of the pipe elbows and froze, causing the entire system to expel the compressed air and fill with water.

Guarino said the town is fully insured and the adjusters were at the building first thing yesterday morning with Serv-Pro – a company the specializes in cleaning water damage.

He said the town's insurer said the town will next week get a temporary on-site modular building to use as town offices. He and Town Administrator Arthur Capello estimate the Academy building will be unusable for at least four months.

According to archives from the History of Merrimack and Belknap Counties, the Gilmanton Academy was first built in 1797 and was incorporated by the state Legislature for use as a school.

On Jan. 22, 1808, the building burned to the ground because of careless disposal of ashes in a barrel. Four weeks later, the frame of the existing building was erected and the town voted to spend $250 toward its rebuilding.

The building was used as a school until the 1960s when the Gilmanton School was built on Route 140. In the mid-1980s the town moved its town offices to the Academy Building from the "Old" Town Hall that is in the Iron Works section of Gilmanton.

Guarino said that the town hall has had some recent renovations including the bell tower that was refurbished with an LCHIP or state historic preservation grant. He said the town recently refinished all of the wood flooring and he is optimistic that none of it will buckle during the drying process.

As for the immediate future, Guarino said this Thursday's selectman's meeting and special warrant article meeting for eliminating SB2 or the Official Budget Act will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Gilmanton School. He said Saturday's public hearing for the 2015 budget or "Super Saturday" will also be held at the school at 8:30 a.m.

Town Clerk/ Tax Collector Debra Cornett said the Town Clerks and Tax Collectors in Belmont, Laconia, Alton, and Gilford have offered to help the town's taxpayers with any payments, car or truck registration or questions until her office can get back on its feet.

CUTLINE: The Gilmanton Town Clerk Tax Collectors Office was heavily damaged by an accidental sprinkler discharge at 10 p.m. Sunday. The entire building will likely have to be rehabilitated.

CUTLINE: Lacon

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 01:42

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Gilmanton Town Clerk operating out of Safety Building

GILMANTON — Town Administrator Arthur Capello said yesterday that with the exception of vehicle registrations, the Town Clerk/Tax Collectors office is operating out of the Public Safety building on Route 140.

Capello said anyone who needs to register a car can go to Alton, Gilford, Laconia, or Belmont for the time being.

Capello said he is working out of Gilmanton Academy because there needs to be a town presence there while repair work is ongoing. He said he is setting up a Internet "hot spot" through the Internet system at the Public Safety building and hopes to be on-line within a few days.

The Gilmanton Academy was heavily damaged by a frozen and broken pipe in the attic sprinkler system at 10 p.m. on January 11. Water cascaded through the attic to the third floor meeting room and down into the first floor offices, damaging or destroying all of the computers and furnishings in the building.

Selectman Don Guarino said vital records and back up copies of recent work were stored in a safe and the vault which were not damaged.

Capello said that the residents of Gilmanton have been wonderful to the town employees who have been temporarily displaced by the flood and he and the selectmen really appreciate their patience.

Capello said a stand-alone modular building will be set up by the middle of next week for use as temporary town offices. He estimated it will be at least three to four months before the town offices can return to the Academy Building.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 06:10

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3 $20 bill copies found on home printer lead to forgery indictment against Gilford man

LACONIA — A Gilford man was been indicted by a Belknap County grand jury for three counts of forgery and one count of attempted forgery last week.

County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen said yesterday that Richard J. Varricchio, 51, of 131 Lake Street had a single sheet of three $20 bills that was printed on both sides on his printer.

"I thought they looked pretty real," she said, noting that the three fake bills were still on one sheet of paper and had not yet been cut into separate bills.

She said Gilford Police found the sheet in plain view when they went to arrest Varricchio on May 2, 2014 on an outstanding warrant for possession of cocaine issued by the N.H. State Police.

Varricchio had been a passenger in his own car on November 30, 2014 when the driver was stopped by N.H. State Police near the Walmart entrance on Route 11 for driving while intoxicated.

Varricchio had also been drinking and told police he didn't want to drive his car home. Police drove him to his apartment and made arrangements to have the car towed. During the inventory search, police allegedly found some cocaine in the car.

He was charged with one count of possession of cocaine but was found not guilty by a jury in December of 2014 after a two-day trial in Belknap County Superior Court.

It was when Gilford Police were serving the warrant to Varricchio that they said they found his alleged attempt to forge $20 bills.

Guldbrandsen said that, to her knowledge, Varricchio had not made any attempts to pass the forged bills or use them to purchase any items. She said this is why he is charged with forgery under the state law as opposed to counterfeiting which is a federal crime.

She said the United States Secret Service was notified about the forgery but passed on the investigation because of the relatively small attempt.

Varricchio was also indicted for one count of possession of heroin and one count of possession of Baclofen — a muscle relaxer often prescribed to people with multiple sclerosis for their muscle spasms.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 01:34

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Franklin offering lower student tuition rate to entice Hill to stay

By Thomas P. Caldwell

FRANKLIN — Members of the Franklin School Board are hoping their counterparts in Hill will see the wisdom of establishing an AREA review board that could revise the tuition formula contained in the current Authorized Regional Enrollment Area agreement between the Hill and Franklin school districts.
The Hill board meets on Wednesday, Jan. 14, and it will take up Franklin's request that proposes using the tuition calculator the Newfound Area School District developed in its bid to accept Hill students in grades 7 through 12.
Superintendent Robert McKenney said using Newfound's formula to calculate the per-student cost to send the students to Franklin would save Hill $103,735.25 in tuition costs, compared to sending them to Newfound. Additionally, by staying with Franklin, Hill would avoid paying the $25,000 plus interest that Franklin would lose in state building aid if Hill were to sever its current agreement.
As it stands, the AREA agreement would require Hill to spend $864,847.32 to send students to Franklin next year. The figure was a surprise to everyone and when McKenney presented those figures to the Hill board last month, he said, "I sit here stunned. If we were going to fudge the numbers to win your support, we wouldn't have come up with this."
The number was high because of increased spending for Franklin schools at a time when the overall student population is decreasing.
Newfound, on the other hand, had proposed a per-pupil rate that would put total tuition at $839,917. Winnisquam, which also was competing for the Hill tuition students, came in with a cost of $712,918.
The Hill board decided to pursue a tuition agreement with Newfound while remaining part of School Administrative Unit 18 which serves Franklin and Hill.
The Franklin board, meeting on Jan. 6, voted to aggressively press Hill to remain with the city, and it sent a letter to the Hill board stating, "the Franklin School Board would ... be open to a revision of the tuition formula so that the tuition going forward would be calculated using the same formula utilized by (Newfound) in its most recent tuition proposal."
At its Jan. 12 meeting, the Franklin School Board agreed with the 10 talking points offered by Attorney Matthew Upton: There is no reason to dissolve a long-term relationship over short-term disagreements; staying with Franklin will continue a 50-year partnership; Franklin is willing to amend the AREA agreement to use Newfound's formula; Hill taxpayers could save $100,000 by engaging in an AREA review board; Franklin has comparable educational programming to Newfound; there would be less disruption to Hill students if they remained with Franklin; both Franklin and Hill should try to resolve their differences before dissolving the AREA agreement; the Franklin board would give the Hill School District a greater say in the operation of schools than Newfound would provide in a tuition agreement; and all of the necessary support systems and logistics to accommodate Hill students are already in place in Franklin.

Hill Vice-Chair Greg Husband called Franklin's proposal a good-faith effort on their part, but he said, "We're at their mercy at this point."
The Hill board, in response to Franklin's letter, wrote, "Hill School Board has had some discussions with our attorney regarding the issues raised in said letter. The board members will continue these discussions amongst ourselves at the Hill School Board meeting on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. The board anticipates that it will have a more definitive response to said letter on Thursday or Friday of this week."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 01:26

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